Friday, October 08, 2010

Peaks and valleys of progressive activism

Democrats are expected to get creamed in the midterm elections. It's not that as a country we have decided we want to be governed by a bunch of flat-earth, climate change denying, poor-hating whores for the plutocracy. It's that many of us don't see a lot of urgency to vote this time around. According to Public Policy Polling, even people in the center of the spectrum still don't like Republicans.

Barack Obama defeated John McCain 60-39 with self described moderates, according to the national exit poll. Our last national generic ballot poll found Democrats ahead 58-28, showing no improvement whatsoever.

But the 2008 electorate -- younger, browner, poorer -- isn't who will show up on November 2. Unless something extraordinary changes, the voters will be overwhelmingly old, white, and conservative. There's an emerging majority that doesn't look like that, but it isn't ready to settle in to governing. Economic anxiety kills enthusiasm, as had the Obama bunch's decidedly compromised record in office of playing the insider game with the likes of big banks and BP.

I'm reading and enjoying David Plouffe's Audacity to Win, a recounting from his campaign manager's vantage point of the 2008 Obama run. This sort of book is candy to anyone who has worked in numerous campaigns as "field scum," responsible for the mass of grunts who actually make contact with the voters.

Plouffe is tender with all the usual Obama-ites. I'm sure he loves them, but that's not really interesting. I don't give a damn about (current press secretary) Robert Gibbs or (former chief of staff) Rahm Emmanuel. I'm not reading this for the gossip. And I don't believe a lot of Plouffe's waxing lyrical about loving the Obama volunteers. But the guy has an eye for what is really going on in a political moment.

Usually when reading something like this I don't blog about it until I finish, but this time I won't resist sharing some tidbits as I go along. Here are a few phrases from the introduction, describing what so many felt on election night in 2008.

... a kind of primal joy at seeing wrongs righted, at having risen up to achieve something cynics said couldn't be done. For most of us under a certain age, any prior familiarity with this feeling came secondhand, from history books. Now we owned it.

Yeah, it was a high. And from such a peak, we've crashed hard. We can't expect to live on the peaks forever. Now's the time for sticking with what we believe in (with or without Democratic office holders), defending what gains we can, and building for a different future.

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